Natural environments are considerably more variable than laboratory settings and often involve transient exposure to stressful conditions. To fully understand how organisms have evolved to respond to any given stress, prior experience must therefore be considered. We investigated the effects of individual and ancestral experience on C. elegans reproduction. We documented ways in which cultivation at 15°C or 25°C affects developmental time, lifetime fecundity, and reproductive performance after severe heat stress that exceeds the fertile range of the organism but is compatible with survival and future fecundity. We found that experience modulates multiple aspects of reproductive physiology, including the male and female germ lines and the interaction between them. These responses vary in their environmental sensitivity, suggesting the existence of complex mechanisms for coping with unpredictable and stressful environments
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